India's greatest sportspersons over the last two decades probably are Sachin Tendulkar, Leander Paes and Viswanathan Anand. Tendulkar's success is well-documented for the simple fact that the country lives and breathes cricket. The spotlight hasn't much been on tennis and chess troubadours Paes - India's only medalist in the 1996 Olympics - and Anand, who has won five world championship titles. V Krishnaswamy in his book Sachin: A Hundred Hundreds Now brings the fantastic trio together; a rare idea, one has to admit. However, Tendulkar has got the maximum space in the book and all his hundred international tons have been relived in great detail.
The 39-year-old batsman started his cricketing odyssey way back in 1989 and 23 years is a long time to remember all his centuries. From his first in England in 1990 to his latest in Bangladesh early this year, every hundred has been shed light upon a great deal. Not only that, but also under what circumstances those tons came in have also been touched on. A lot of trivia and quotes from former cricketers highlight the book. However that's not all.
The political scenarios across the world over this period of twenty years or so have also got a mention. From the Soviet Union's disintegration to the demolition of the Babri Masjid, to Queen Elizabeth II completing 60 years on the throne of Great Britain, several such historic political scenes daub the book. And that's a big downside to Tendulkar's tons' lexicon.
This is an attempt of sorts to mix politics and sports, to which many readers may have strong objections. A sporting arena is different from a political arena, and both should be kept apart at all events. It is awkward to read Krishnaswamy write of how "On 6 December 1992, barely 10 days after Tendulkar got his third ton of the year, right-wing activists demolished the Babri Masjid". The mosque's demolition is one of the biggest talking points since India's independence, and linking it to Tendulkar is very much like belittling the historic and sensitive event. These political references take the attention from the leitmotif of the book.
Also, there could have been more on Paes and Anand. The partiality to cricket in general in the country reflects in the book as well. It would have been brilliant if the other two's triumphs were also minutely traced like Tendulkar's. It is implicitly acknowledging Tendulkar's superiority over the other two, which is something that won’t sit well with many readers.
Also, there is hardly anything about Tendulkar that cricket fans in India are not aware of, thanks largely to Navjot Singh Sidhu, who in several TV appearances has bared it all about the master batsman. Most of the quotes fail to produce the intended effect because we have already heard them. For example, the legendary Don Bradman seeing some of himself in Tendulkar is one of the most talked about things in the cricket world and its mention here does not excite even a tad curiosity. So the book fails to bring the novelty factor.
Having said that, one has to acknowledge that there at least is an attempt to bestow some recognition on the triumphs of Paes and Anand. And there couldn't have been a better way than comparing their triumphs with those of Tendulkar.
Rahul Dravid, who recently retired from international cricket, has written a rhapsodic introduction and that suggests there is no bad blood between the two, contrary to recent media reports.
When all is said and done, it has to be admitted that more research, especially on Paes and Anand, would have made the book quite agreeable. The idea was right but the execution was poor.